Not all smooth sailing for Missouri casinos

Kansas City, Missouri (AP) — Missouri voters approved gambling in 1992, but it wasn’t until 1994 that the first casino boats opened. Even then it wasn’t smooth sailing.
In February 1994, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature didn’t have the authority to approve games of chance on Missouri’s rivers. In April of that year, voters rejected a measure that would have given that authority to lawmakers.

There also was the issue of the riverboats themselves. The law voters approved called for riverboats to offer two-hour gambling excursions, but after the U.S. Coast Guard expressed concerns about large passenger vessels on the Missouri River, the law was tweaked to allow boats to be permanently docked when it was dangerous or not feasible for them to cruise.

The law was watered down even more when the Legislature said that not only do the boats not have to go anywhere, they didn’t even have to be on a river as long as they were close to one and there was some sort of water around them.

That decision led to „boats in a basin,“ where artificial water basins were created for some of the riverboats in what turned out to be the first steps toward land-based facilities.

In December 1994, voters gave the Legislature the authority to approve games of chance on the rivers and the rapid revenue expansion began.

About the only remnants of the 1992 law are the USD 500 loss limits and the USD 2 per-passenger fee the casinos pay — USD 1 going to the state and USD 1 going to the local community where the boat is located.

If Proposition A is approved, the loss limits would disappear, and the USD 2 admissions tax — which the casinos pay for every two hours a patron is on the boat — would remain.